ARCALIS, Andorra (AP) – Diminished by a fever and still reeling from crashes on the opening two days of the race, two-time champion Alberto Contador pulled out of the Tour de France during the toughest Pyrenean stage on Sunday.
Slightly more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the end of Stage 9 from the Spanish town of Vielha to the ski resort of Arcalis in Andorra, the 33-year-old Spaniard stopped at the side of the road, hopped off his bike and got into the passenger seat of his team car.
"I could not keep going," Contador later said at his team hotel. "This morning I had a fever. And I did not feel good since I crashed on the first day."
Contador crashed in each of the opening stages - damaging his right shoulder, elbow and hip - and had already lost time on the other overall favorites.
He was in 20th position at the end of Saturday's eighth stage — 3 minutes, 12 seconds behind leader Chris Froome, who said Contador's departure from the race was a "big loss for the Tour de France."
"We are not going to have to chase his attacks 100 kilometers out anymore, it's one of the less things for us to worry about, but it's maybe a shame of the race," Froome said.
During Sunday's stage, Contador dropped back to his team car four times before finally withdrawing.
He had started the stage in a bright fashion, though, attacking alongside fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde to catch a group of early breakaway riders on the first climb.
But Contador could not continue his effort and was quickly brought back by the pack before he pulled out in the Port del Canto climb. He then handed his bike to a mechanic and waved to TV cameras as he exited the race that made him famous.
The withdrawal occurred on Contador's home roads near the town of Vilamur in Spain.
"It's bad news for me," said Tinkoff team owner Oleg Tinkov, who is planning to leave the sport. "It was my last try to win the Tour de France. But who knows, maybe I'll come back in a few years."
Contador, who won cycling's showpiece race in 2007 and 2009, had made the Tour de France his main goal of the season, skipping the Giro to focus on the Tour.
If he recovers, Contador is still expected to compete in the road race at the Rio Olympics last month.
"I will undergo tests to find out what is going wrong," Contador said.
Contador was stripped of the 2010 Tour title and suspended for two years after testing positive for the banned steroid clenbuterol in the final week of the race.
He was among the three pre-race favorites this year alongside defending champion Chris Froome and Colombian climber Nairo Quintana.